Using the Toolkits
The Toolkits are designed to support teachers and school leaders who are making decisions about how to improve learning outcomes. They are based on real life data about what has happened when particular approaches have been used in schools before.
The Toolkits do not make definitive claims as to what will work to improve outcomes in a given school. Rather they provide high quality information about what is likely to be beneficial based on existing evidence - ‘best bets’ for what might work in your own context.
Because the Toolkits do not provide definitive answers, they should not be used in isolation. Your professional judgement and expertise is also needed to move from the information in the Toolkit to an evidence-informed decision about what will work best in your school.
Here are our top tips for getting the most out of the Toolkits
1. Look beyond the headlines. Every approach in the Toolkit has a dedicated page which describes in more detail what it is, what it costs and what impact you can expect. This extra detail can really matter. For example, the headline page shows that the average impact for Teaching Assistants is small, on average. However, the Teaching Assistants page reveals that using TAs to provide intensive, structured interventions, either one-to-one or in small groups, can deliver benefits of between three and five months’ additional progress.
2. Think about cost and evidence as well as impact. The most impactful approaches do not always provide the best value for money. For example, reducing class size has been shown to have a positive impact, on average (3 additional months’ progress), but because it requires new teachers it is fairly expensive (with a cost rating of 4 out of 5). Other approaches have had the same impact at a lower cost.
The strength of the evidence also matters. Homework in secondary school is estimated to deliver 5 months’ additional progress. However, the evidence strength rating (2 out of 5) shows that this estimate is less reliable than most of the estimates in the Toolkit.
3. Draw on your professional expertise. The Toolkit can tell you whether an approach has a good track record, but you need expertise and insight into your school’s context to make a well-informed decision about whether to introduce it for your pupils. For example, parental involvement approaches have had an average impact of 3 additional months’ progress. However, the evidence suggests that it can be difficult to get parents engaged in programmes in the first place. So specific knowledge of your school and its pupils is needed before you can decide whether a parental engagement approach would be feasible for you.
Summarising evidence in the Toolkits
For any education approach, there will be variation in the findings of different research studies, which can be lost when evidence is summarised. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit: what are the risks and how do we address them? is a recent blog which discusses the most commonly cited risks of summarising evidence as we do in the Toolkits and explains how we address them.